Growing Outdoors: A Guide to Preparing for Flowering
How to support plants in a delicate stage
Cultivating cannabis has come a long way since the days of putting some seeds in a field and hoping for the best! Expert cultivators have created an array of products and resources to help home growers achieve more success with their cannabis plants. If it’s your first (or even second or third!) grow, you might still be trying to learn the ropes and figure out the best ways to turn those plants into a big stash of beautiful buds.
A lot can happen during the flowering stage of your cannabis plants that will determine how big your yield will be, and how well your product will turn out. This can be a temperamental stage of growth, so we’ve compiled a few tips to help you survive blooming!
Determine When Flowering Has Begun
The first step in helping your plants is to get an accurate idea of exactly where they are in growth so you’ll be able to properly gauge your timing. Growing cannabis outdoors in Ontario, the daylight hours determine when your plant will begin to flower. Usually around the end of July, start of August you will start to notice pistils emerging. Keep track of flowering with a calendar, and note pad so managing weeks is easy.
You’ll know your plant is starting to flower when you see no new chutes growing, and the clusters of leaves at the tops of the plant turn into bud sites, beginning with the white hairs or pistils. When you see the buds start to develop is when you can start counting week 1 of flowering. How long your plant flowers for is dependent on the strain that you’re growing and whether they’re an autoflowering (shorter veg time) or a regular photoperiod strain (longer veg cycle)
Support Your Plants Physically
Once the flowering phase begins and buds start to develop, this is your last opportunity to prune away unnecessary growth with no risk to your plant. Cut away any low branches that aren’t receiving a lot of light in order to focus your plant’s energy where it really matters - on the bigger top buds! Being diligent about your pruning will help to create good air movement throughout the plants to keep them cool and reduce moisture build up. It also helps to create a nice even canopy to ensure your buds receive maximum light exposure.
As your plants get further into flower and your buds become bigger and heavier you want to have something in place to physically support them. Supporting the buds will help to maintain integrity of the stems and help them get the light they really need to grow.
There are multiple fairly inexpensive ways to do this, but most growers find what works for them after a few trial grows. One common way to create support is to stake the plants with Bamboo Plant Stakes and attach heavy stalks with Plant Twist Ties. Try to stake around the exterior of the plant where the buds will have a tendency to lean, and keep away from the main stem to avoid disturbing the roots.
Adapt Your Nutrient System
Plants transitioning from vegetative state to flower will have increased and changing needs for nutrients. Their nutrient intake changes from trying to create rapid physical growth in veg to more mature bud development in bloom. To support this development you need to have additional phosphorus, potassium, and calcium in the final stages of flowering. These elements work to encourage photosynthesis to create the energy needed to grow those big beautiful buds!
If you’re using a liquid fertilizer you’ll want to invest in something specifically formulated for “bloom”. These products are rich in the specific macro + micro nutrients needed for bud development. They work to increase the size and quality of your buds so that you’re left with a better finished product. Most brands have a specific flowering stage nutrient (such as Remo, General Hydroponics, Emerald Harvest, and Green Planet), or multi-product systems with different nutrients for different stages (read more about liquid nutrients here). Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended feeding schedule to avoid over/under feeding. We also recommend giving plants a good flush a week or two before harvesting to use up all stored nutrients.
You can also achieve similar results with an organic approach to your outdoor cannabis nutrients, as long as you’re conscious of the nutrient breakdown of your additives. Organic sources of nutrients can be extremely beneficial for your flowering plants as long as the nitrogen content is kept relatively low in this phase.
Depending on the type of medium you’re growing in and the pH balance, you can create compost teas to give your plants tons of healthy nutrients and friendly bacteria, or add in an organic soil amendment such as Gaia Green Power Bloom. These additives work on a micro-level to create beneficial organic relationships in your soil/other medium for advanced growth.
Whether you’re using liquid or organic fertilizers you want to be sure that it’s a complete and cohesive system and you aren’t overwhelming your plant. If you’re unsure of what your plants may need consult with one of our experts by email, call us at (905)509-8420, or stop in to see us.
Avoid Crop-Ruining Pests
Outdoor cannabis plants can definitely lead to significant yields but they’re also subject to more risks outside our control, such as weather, temperature, and pests! Try to keep your plants confined and supported (as we mentioned earlier) to help deter bigger pests such as rabbits and squirrels. Smaller pests like aphids can be equally as deadly to a crop in the home stretch though, so be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of damage. It might be helpful to keep an insecticide on hand to be able to deal with any issues immediately. Avoid spraying directly on buds, but Safer’s Insecticidal Soapcan safely be used during flowering.
As we reach later in the summer months and the humidity levels grow, so does the chance of white powdery mildew. This fungus can come up overnight, spread quickly, and ruin your buds if you’re not careful. When the heat and humidity are high be extra diligent about monitoring your plants. If you see white circles or spots forming on your leaves it’s likely WPM. Treat the fungus as early as possible with a fungicide, and remove any contaminated fan leaves carefully to avoid spreading the spores.
One of the best ways to deal with white powdery mildew is to avoid it altogether. If you’re growing cannabis outdoors in fabric pots, try to keep plants in an area where they get maximum air flow. It’s also a good idea to keep them well spaced apart - this will also help to minimize the damage if you encounter fungus. Keep your buds as dry as possible to avoid mold by shaking off any dew or excessive water build up (after a rain storm for example, if they aren’t covered).
The Final Stretch Is The Most Important
Finally, in order to make the most out of your plants and all the hard work you put in growing them outdoors you want to make sure your harvest is well-timed. Monitor the trichomes on your buds, and when they turn from clear to a milky colour, it’s time to harvest. If they start to all turn amber you’ve waited too long! The genetics of your strain should give you a ballpark idea of how long they need to flower for, and when they might be ready for harvest.
When harvesting outdoor plants you really want to plan ahead and make sure it’s a nice sunny day, and avoid any long bouts of rainy days. You also want to be mindful of when temperatures start to dip down at night to prevent any exposure to frost. Keep track of your flowering schedule and compare it with weather forecasts to pick the best day weatherwise to harvest. Keep in mind once temperatures start to fall slightly, and rainy days become more prevalent it’s better to harvest a little bit earlier than to lose your crops to mold or frost! Read more of our tips for harvest season here.